WASHINGTON ? More than 30 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are concerned that a proposed SNAP fraud prevention solution will have ?unintended consequences.?
In a letter to House and Senate leadership, along with the chairmen and ranking members of both the Senate and House Agriculture committees, the CBC took issue with a Farm Bill provision that ?would prohibit any food retailer from participating in the SNAP program if 45% or more of the retailer?s revenue is derived from combined sales of hot food, tobacco, and alcohol (?the 45% rule?). The provision?s advocates claim the language is intended to prevent fraud, but in practice the 45% rule would preclude virtually every convenience store in the United States from participating in the program.?
The CBC promotes the fact that ?bodegas, convenience stores, and locally-owned corner stores are often the only food providers in the region, and thus a place for our constituents to redeem their SNAP benefits to purchase eligible food items. If it were not for these businesses, our economically challenged constituents would be forced to travel long distances to purchase SNAP eligible products.?
Instead, the caucus suggests tackling the fraud issue from other angles, namely the trafficking of SNAP benefits for cash and the requirement that all retailer-participants have an EBT system for accepting food stamps. What?s not helpful is the 45% rule that ?would impose a blanket prohibition on a large portion of bodegas, convenience stores, and corner markets from participating in the SNAP program, even though most of these outlets have never violated the program?s requirements.?
The letter strongly recommends applying the 45% rule to only retailers who do not have fraud-reducing equipment. ?If the 45% rule is enacted, small establishments would not respond by selling less alcohol or tobacco ? instead, they would respond by turning away needy Americans hoping to purchase food with their SNAP benefits. The reason for this is that retailers do not control what customers want to buy, they respond to what customers want to buy. To think the 45% rule will improve consumers? nutritional tendencies ignores this basic fact.?